„ When you look back, what would you change about your upbringing? ” – I’ve never asked this question on a first date. I’m sure you haven’t. But according to science, questions like this could change my entire love life. Because after the typical dating small talk, you might know what job the other person is doing, how tall he is and what hobbies he has, but you can usually say little about the character. Because nobody really opens up and you only check each other superficially.
I’m fed up with dull requests for dating apps and boring small talk, where everyone just rattled off their standard text and in the end they both went home alone because it “somehow doesn’t fit”. There must be another way!
Is Tinder ruining our love life?
The experiment of the US -psychologist Dr. Arthur Aaron seemed to me to be exactly the right thing to finally put an end to my single life. About 20 years ago he made a sensational experiment. His thesis: 2 complete strangers can fall in love with each other if they experience the greatest possible closeness and familiarity when they get to know each other. No, not physical closeness, but emotional closeness. It is completely unimportant how much the two people resemble each other.
Only the fact that they entrust their innermost being to another person is decisive for falling in love.
Aaron developed a questionnaire consisting of 36 questions, which have nothing in common with small talk, but are rather a matter of the bare essentials. After both have answered all the questions in order, they look each other in the eyes for 4 minutes. At the latest then the spark should fly. At first I was sceptical.
But the results of his study are: Some of his randomly picked students are said to have actually become a couple after the experiment and one is even said to have gotten married six months later. If these are not rosy prospects for me!
To meet the man of my dreams, I tried the whole thing myself. On MensHealth.de men could apply who wanted to sacrifice their single life in the name of science and get to know me. Pascal, Anton and Carsten quickly responded, three men who could not have been more different. I didn’t know more than their names before the experiment, because we were supposed to be “strangers” to each other. Well: It wasn’t love at first sight. No one fell into my usual prey pattern.
But it’s not your appearance that should spark love, but your answers to the legendary 36 questions.
Date 1: Deep Talk on the first date
My first date is with Pascal. His glasses and the conspicuous tattoos immediately catch my eye. Not only him, but me, too, I’m nervous as hell. After a brief impersonal handshake, I’m ready to go. What begins as an innocent round of questions becomes more and more intimate after a short time. Already at point 7 we have to tell each other if we have a guess how we will die. Phew! Deep talk at its finest.
A question I have never dealt with in my life and which you definitely don’t ask on a first date.
Date number 1: Pascal (27)
Afterwards, we should each name 3 things that we have in common. Actually not a difficult task, but under pressure I can’t think of anything and I don’t even know him. So, based on the previous questions, we will try to find out what we have in common: We both like to travel, we both like to have breakfast on Sundays – who doesn’t? But it’s precisely such banalities that make us more relaxed.
That we take turns and no one talks more than the other somehow makes it easier to open up – shared shame is half shame. After we get to know each other question by question, I feel more and more comfortable with him. After the 36th question we should “stare” into each other’s eyes for another 4 minutes. What begins as a laughing act feels more and more like a meditation. We lose ourselves in each other’s eyes, I quickly get used to the really intense eye contact.
The eyes are probably not the mirror of the soul for nothing. After 4 minutes the alarm clock pulls us out of the relaxed atmosphere.
Who would have thought it! We do have a lot in common and get along really well, but butterflies have unfortunately not found their way into my stomach. An impersonal handshake at the beginning, turns into a hearty hug at farewell. I am surprised how deeply I got to know Pascal in only 1.5 hours. A completely different basis than usual dates. I have never had a date like this before.
Date 2: Building trust from 0 to 100
A nonchalant guy who immediately welcomes me with a hug. Apparently, I’m the more nervous one of us this time. Busy with studies, part-time job and festivals, Anton seems surprisingly relaxed – is he my great love? By now I know the procedure and the questions. My answers become routine. Nevertheless, I don’t tell exactly the same story, the conversation with Anton develops differently than with Pascal and I can think of other experiences that I would like to share with him.
We talk at length about our families. Things that I hadn’t thought about before but which are still buzzing around in my head come up and I get to know not only him but also myself better. Then Anton says something very interesting: He thinks that if he had gone through the questions with earlier dates, he might have noticed more quickly that the women don’t suit him.
Date number 2: Anton (25)
Slowly the order of the questions also makes sense to me: The mixture of self-revelation, mutual assessment and possible common ground makes us get closer. After sad questions like when we cried the last time in the presence of another person, I don’t even get to feel pity or sadness, because directly afterwards we are allowed to tell each other what we already like about each other. See there: the melancholic mood has no chance. This is a clever concept that the psychologist has come up with.
Anton not only listens to me with interest, but also responds to my answers. I feel understood and notice how trust is built up between us. I would love to continue talking to Anton for hours, we are on the same wavelength, talking honestly, freely and without any shame. But even here the big bang is missing. Nevertheless, I would like to see Anton again, to talk to him for once, far away from pre-set questions. Who knows, maybe a second meeting will spark off love after all.
These men are most likely to break the hearts of women
Date 3: Really getting to know someone is exhausting – but laughing together helps
Even though all good things come in threes – I somehow don’t feel like it anymore. Nevertheless I try to motivate myself for another soul revelation. Somehow it is exhausting to tell your feelings and most intimate stories to a complete stranger. But I can’t back out and the hope that maybe my dream man is sitting there still exists. But the last conversation starts anything but relaxed: Carsten and I have got off to a difficult start.
With his 34 years he is the oldest of the 3 candidates and this age difference is noticeable. Stiff, cool and completely unenthusiastic we devote ourselves to the questions. When I already lose almost all hope for my third date, we finally get the hang of it after a good 45 minutes. He tells me what is most important to him in a friendship and I notice how much he already trusts me – I usually only know this from firm relationships.
Date number 3: Carsten (34)
When we are supposed to compliment each other, the conversation finally loosens up. Cross your heart – what woman doesn’t like to hear what’s great about her? At the same time, I observe him more attentively and notice things that I might not have recognized immediately on a first date: facial expressions, gestures, behavior patterns that give me a better overall picture of his person.
We understand each other, laugh together and then something happens that I had not expected: On the last question, I confide a really private problem to Carsten. Why with him in particular? Maybe our bumpy start made us feel more connected? Carsten made me laugh in a charming way, but even that is not enough for me to fall in love.
My conclusion to the 36 questions about falling in love
Now you probably think that the whole experiment was a complete failure. Absolutely not! Even if it was not enough to fall in love, I took some new findings with me and got to know 3 incredibly great people really well. We have confided things to each other that at best only the closest friends know – that’s what connects us. Normally I don’t open up to men directly. Like most relationship-damaged people, I am simply afraid of being hurt.
Marked by experiences, previous relationships and lovesickness, I have closed myself more and more to love. Emotional closeness – no chance. Especially not on the first date. This fear was taken away from me during the dating experiment. The 36 questions were a jump in the deep end. But sometimes you just have to dare to reveal unpleasant or embarrassing details of your life. Only then the other person gets a real chance to get to know me.
I opened myself to 3 complete strangers, shared my most embarrassing, terrible and saddest moments. And now comes the crux: What have I lost? What have I lost? I gained more and got to know myself better.
Good resolutions for love
Would I do the 36 questions again?
Yes. Even if I’m not in love, I’m sure these questions can work. Of course, they don’t create a dream man, but they help you get to know someone pretty damn well in a very short time. Of course I don’t know the 3 after the 36 questions in and out, but we definitely got closer – a kind of crash test for love.
Therefore I will keep the questions in mind as inspiration for my next dates. No more small talk about job, favourite colour and co., but deeper conversations in which we open ourselves emotionally. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet the love of my life that way. And who wants to miss that?
You have become curious and would like to try the experiment yourself? Then you should know the following in advance:
How much time do the 36 questions take?
There is no concrete time span, because the talks are of course always dependent on the two persons and their flow of speech. Nevertheless, you should plan a minimum of one hour. All 3 conversations I had exceeded this time frame by far. The longest conversation even lasted 3 hours. In between there are always questions from which a deeper conversation develops – which you should not stall.
Are the 36 questions also useful for couples?
Absolutely! You already know everything about your treasure? Even then the questions may be interesting for you. For already existing partnerships the questions are suitable to get to know each other better or to give the relationship a little love boost. Share common events with each other, laugh about embarrassing experiences and compliment each other in between. Well, if that doesn’t bring new impulses into a relationship. And who knows, maybe you will fall in love with your lover again?
5 things that make happy couples different
My tips for the 36-question date
- Meet in a relaxed and cosy location (park or a quiet café)
- Be completely honest with each other! No shame
- Do not skip any question! After all, the order has its meaning
- Continue the 4 minutes of looking into the eyes until the end without talking
Always ask yourself what you have to lose and you will realize it is not much. After all, you have the chance to find your dream man here. And that’s reason enough to overcome yourself and open up.
The 36 questions about falling in love
- If you could choose any person in the world – who would you invite to your home for dinner as a guest?
- Would you like to be famous? What would that be like and what would you be like?
- Did you ever rehearse what you were going to say before you called anyone? If so, why?
- What would your perfect day look like?
- When was the last time you just sang to yourself like that? And when was the last time you sang for someone else?
- Imagine turning 90.
If you could choose to keep either the mind or the body of a (or a) 30-year-old for the last 60 years – how would you choose?
- Have you ever had a premonition of how you will die?
- Name 3 things you and I have in common in your opinion.
- What are you most grateful for in your life so far?
- If you could look back on your upbringing and you could do something about it today – what would it be?
- Take 4 minutes and tell your partner the story of your life, as detailed as possible.
- Imagine waking up tomorrow with some new quality or ability. Which one would you like?
- If a fortune teller could tell you the truth about your future – what would you want to know?
- What have you always wanted to do that you have never done before?
- What is the greatest success of your life so far?
- What is the most important thing in a friendship for you?
- If you imagine the most beautiful moments of your life, which moment is your most beautiful memory?
- And what is your worst memory?
- Imagine if you knew for certain that you’d die in a year. Would you change your lifestyle a little? What and why?
- What meaning does friendship have in your life?
- What role do love and affection play in your life?
- Take turns telling each other what positive traits your counterpart has. Each of you should name 5.
- Do you feel that your childhood was happier than most?
- What is the relationship between you and your mother?
- Each of you make three true “we-statements”. Like, “We both walked into this room feeling…”
- “I wish I had someone to share it with.”
- If you wanted to be close friends with your counterpart, what would be important for him or her to know?
- Tell your partner what you like about him.
Be honest and also say things that you might not otherwise say to a person you are meeting for the first time.
- Do you remember an extremely embarrassing moment in your life?
- When was the last time you cried in front of another person? When was the last time you cried alone?
- Tell your counterpart something that you already like about him or her.
- What’s not to be joked about?
- If you were to die tonight without having spoken to anyone else, what would you regret not having said? Why didn’t you tell anyone before?
- Your house with all your possessions will catch fire. After you have rescued your loved ones and pets, you still have time to get exactly one item. What would you save and why?
- The death of which family member would be the worst for you? Why?
- Tell your partner about a personal problem and ask how he or she would deal with it.
Also ask your partner to reflect on how you appeared when you told him or her about your problem.